Cornelius and I left Minsk after stalling the Purnesian Army. Then, we met up with the Reichenstein domain’s militia only about twenty minutes south.
With a wave of her arm, Cornelius created a large ice wall that stretched across a significant portion of the field. Various holes dotted the structure, allowing one to peek out and spy any activity looming from the rolling hills.
As we waited for the next hour or so, other squadrons from the nearby regions arrived to add to our defensive strength. Among them, a group of levi-board riders coasted towards us, a motion that was easily distinguishable from horses and carriages that were the norm. And at the head of the pack, the eye-catching armor of the Valkyrie was spotted.
I waved to Eryn, who looked a bit flustered upon seeing me. She normally did pretty well with hiding her emotions, but I had noticed that she blinked rapidly whenever worry clouded her mind.
“Claude, you seem unhurt. I got a worrisome message from Cornelius and rallied the knights. To think that you found yourself there at the exact moment of invasion. Did Chrys deprive you of your luck?”
Her eyes scanned me up and down as if checking for injuries. Though by now, they had all been long healed up from potions Cornelius had on hand.
“Perhaps, I just used it all up while escaping. Though, I have to thank Sir Gadwin and Cornelius for getting me out of the worst of it. No way I would’ve made it out alone.”
Eryn turned to Cornelius, who was right beside me. She started bowing down to thank her, but she found a hand cupping her chin, lifting it back up.
“You should praise your partner instead. His plan knocked out a whole squadron by simply using the gifts that he had trained. Plus, we gathered quite a bit of information in the meantime.”
Cornelius briefed her on the events of Minsk where we had poisoned the Purnesian soldiers with food. During that time, Cornelius overheard plenty of talkative soldiers conversing about their new toys and how they planned to attack with them.
I added what I knew of the situation in Fort Valga, where the portal guns had been used to assassinate the guards stationed there. Of course, I only knew what Gadwin had told me.
In essence, the Purnesian Army obtained inferior versions of Katalina’s magic and portal guns. However, they had been mass-produced, adding up to an impressive collection of troublesome weaponry spread among hundreds of soldiers.
Furthermore, the main army used explosion-based projectiles that I knew of as ‘guns’. Their ease of use and long reach would make it far different than any battle that the people of Sistina had faced. Since the pellets were too small and fast to track, there was no time to distinguish the enemy’s true strength.
A bullet could harmlessly bounce off one’s body if it came from a low-level marksman. But another bullet could easily be from someone with enough attack to tear through one’s defenses.
In a battle with such high uncertainty, they would have to exhaust more efforts constantly defending against the strongest of enemies. That was one disadvantage that the soldiers and magic knights of SIstina were not accustomed to handling.
That became clear once activity stirred in the horizon. As the hill swarmed like ants emerging, the cries of various people sounded to get into position.
The magicians with long range capability attacked first, slinging spells randomly into the crowd. With how dense the charging formation was, one could literally close their eyes and cast. However, they soon found themselves needing to look elsewhere.
The sound of several loud bangs echoed closer than expected.
Immediately, a few of the magicians fell, having been struck by something. Eyes darted all around to look for the source of the attack, but I knew exactly what had happened.
“Up there! Guard them from the portals!” I cried, pointing at the hovering swirls of mana that floated in the sky. The long shafts of guns aimed at us from within told us that we couldn’t let our guard down from any direction.
Eryn threw a fireball at one of the portals, hoping to ignite the person on the other side, but it simply crashed into and dissolved the portal. She clicked her teeth, knowing that she had only succeeded in disrupting the mana source; the fireball itself could not pass through the opening.
Soldiers grabbed their shields and parked themselves behind the magicians, keeping a careful eye for more attacks. The sound of metal bullets bouncing off their equipment added to the noise of battle.
Unfortunately, only physical objects could pass through the portal, one limitation that Katalina mentioned at some point. Any mana directly striking the portal would interact with it, causing a disruption that would cancel out the magic if strong enough. Of course, the users would be safe on the other side due to a built-in safety mechanism designed to protect them.
That was being used against us now. The guns could easily fire from the air, while we could only sling magic to cancel out each portal as they came. But with plenty of users that the portal gun could be passed off to, there was no end to it. We were bombarded from both sides.
And even if we sent our soldiers to protect the magicians, they were hard-pressed to continuously track tens of portals zipping back and forth.
I watched from a secluded bunker, one that an Earth magician had set up. With a wall on three sides, I only had to keep my eyes forward. From this position, I saw several people stumble to the ground while clutching an injury from a stray bullet.
High-level knights and soldiers, who were reasonably stronger than the average Purnesian, were falling due to the sheer density of attacks. Eventually, a single bullet would break through their defenses somehow or slip through an overlooked angle.
In this world, a surprise attack could bypass one’s defensive capability. The intent to attack and to defend – those came hand in hand when determining the outcome of an engagement. However, when one side failed to show the proper intent, the stats of a person were no longer factored into the clash.
This mysterious phenomenon allowed for nearly anyone to kill or be killed, under specific circumstances.
Thus, many injuries being inflicted from the gunfire had come from an unseen strike, easily done with the limitless mobility of the flying portals.
Cornelius’s eyes darted across the area, instantly taking all of this information in, and with a wave of her hand, she cast an ice dome to cover the temporary base that had been set up.
We lost visibility of the surrounding field because of that; only windows placed in the front wall allowed for magicians to cast their magic from. However, that bought us some time to think before the whole army reached our base.
Gathered in a circle, various lords started throwing ideas out to deal with the current situation. However, the standard military tactic of splitting up forces and launching attacks from multiple angles simply did not work for such an occasion. The portals could move faster than most fighters, which meant that whoever left this safety zone would be quickly bombarded by tons of attacks.
“Very few of us are that light on our feet,” one of the lords commented, mentally calculating the chances of his highest-level combatants.
“True. With how quickly they move, only the few fastest can dodge such dangers. And that is simply outrunning a few portals, not even including the massive army. Sending all of our elites is a risky maneuver…”
“Us magic knights can weather a few attacks if we generate a magic shield around our entire body. But that doesn’t leave us much flexibility for continuous movement while concurrently casting.”
As Eryn, Cornelius and I listened to the others talk, which wasn’t getting anywhere, we turned towards each other. All signs were pointing to the only option that we had – deploying the small squad of Valkyrie Knights that were on-site.
Trained to maneuver quickly with levi-boards, Eryn’s special team was able to cast while riding. And by zooming across the field, they would make difficult targets to focus gunfire on. The currently approaching army numbered in the few hundreds only, but they would likely grow in number as more reinforcements arrived.
We collectively sighed at the unspoken solution to our problem, but then, Eryn walked forward with confidence.
“We will go. The Valkyrie Knights. I will take charge.”
The other lords turned to us with a look of surprise, but then, their eyes lit up after sensing the courage she displayed.
“Marchioness Faulkner! For one such as yourself to go so far…”
“We don’t have time for such discussions. I am heading out!”
Not needing the other lords to suck up to her actions, Eryn gathered the knights she brought and quickly got into position. Altogether, there were only about 20 of them, but they were well-experienced under her. The best rider, however, was absent; she had left Violet in charge of her domain instead.
With a deep breath, Eryn focused on the mana barrier around her, kicking up a light wind that swirled around and made her hair swish. She even added some flames to it, giving the effect a greater feeling of danger. The very sight of it would drive fear into the hearts of our enemies.
Likewise, the others generated their mana shields and stepped onto their boards. They all nodded to Eryn, ready for the signal to go.
“Please do not stretch yourself too far….” Cornelius reached out with a look of concern for her friend, who merely replied with a smile.
“When do I not?” she said softly before eyeing both Cornelius and I. “But I have the two of you waiting for me. That’s the support I need to see this through.”
With that, she gave the signal to proceed. Her eyes focused ahead at the spot in the ice wall I was standing next to. With a nod, I slashed the wall. Cracks quickly spread in a web from my blow, creating a weakened section to crash through.
Eryn wasted no time casting a fireball which blasted straight through the cracked area, passing through the resulting hole into the army beyond.
Charging Wind magic in one hand and Fire in another, she combined the two in a dramatic flash of light as she approached the first enemies.
“Like dragon fire scorching the lands before me, turn my enemies into ash and devour the land that they stand upon – ‘The Din’s Fang!’”
Like fistfuls of flaming sand being thrown into a crowd, Eryn charged forward while heaving wide arcs of fire magic, catching many people by surprise.
They aimed their guns at her and fired, but she pivoted on her board and dodged the spray of bullets. If most of them missed, less mana would be consumed by her shield.
Likewise, the other Valkyrie Knights followed her lead, casting a multitude of elemental magic to bombard their opponents. Soon, the collective group of the Purnesian Army was being pushed back, the magic spells spreading across the area like a confetti lightshow.
From the windows of our icy fort, we spied several portals racing around and trying to catch up to the board riders. However, it only took minutes for the movement of them to slow down; likely, the users had exhausted their mana supply. And one by one, the portals in the sky faded away, with few being added to replace them.
The tide of the battle gradually turned. The Purnesian Army had no good way to counter such a tactic, having failed to rid us with their original strategy. As the bodies started piling up with no visible damage to our side, a high-pitched whistle blew, and the Purnesian Army began to back away.
‘That must be the signal to retreat…,’ I thought as the entire line visibly receded.
“Woah, that actually worked!”
“That’s our Valkyrie! Our goddess of the battlefield!”
The voices of many cheered behind me. I couldn’t help but feel a bit of pride that she was my Master.
As the board riders coasted back towards us, the forces on our side filtered through the hole in the wall and went out to celebrate with them. I was no different, not wanting to be left behind, so I found myself carried by the flow of people.
That rush of eager soldiers and knights surrounded the brave fighters that ended their dilemma, leaving me no room to go up to Eryn and give her a hug. Instead, I got tossed to the ground like a wave crashing onto the shore.
I landed next to something that stunk with the sharp smell of smoke. Glancing that way, my hand accidentally brushed against a large, black lump on the grass. Instantly, my heart paused as I lifted my hand up to see a bloody stain that was heavily dirtied with soot.
What I had touched was a body, partially cremated by a Fire spell, likely one of the first ones encountered by Eryn. Her flames had instantly torched the low-level soldier who didn’t have the mana to protect himself. The shock of being burned alive had likely killed him, leaving dark red to ooze through the charcoal skin.
My stomach suddenly flipped on its side, and my face turned green. The pulpy mixture of partially digested eggplant spewed onto the grass, an unmistakable noise resulting from it.
“Just let it out. Don’t try to hold it in.”
I felt a gentle hand pat against my back. Blue tips of hair dangled above my vision, telling me that it was Cornelius.
“We knights have been taught to accept this kind of reality from the beginning of our training. It is understandable that this scene would bother you. It’s not wrong to think that.”
I lifted my head and scanned the battlefield. More corpses were littered around. Some were a burned husk like the one next to me. Others were skewered by jagged ice or rock, and some had been bisected like they had run into a blade. That did not ease my stomach any.
I turned back to the ice wall, giving my eyes a rest from the gruesome scene. Most of all, I needed something to distract me from the images flashing in my head – the thought of Eryn mercilessly torching her enemies in a blaze.
Suddenly, all those times that Eryn claimed that she held back despite breaking her opponents’ bones flashed in my memory. It only clicked to me now how lax she was on her opponents then. Her blows could almost rival Saki’s, and her magic was strong enough to blow away demons.
And she was not afraid to use it. To obliterate her opponents if given the chance.
I peeked over at the crowd of people, seeing Eryn’s face through it occasionally. Her expression was the same as ever. Her body was stained with the blood of many of her opponents. In fact, there was not even a single trace of remorse, unlike what I saw from Cornelius.
“Hey, you look like you need a bit of time away to think.” Cornelius’s voice interrupted me. “Why don’t you take this chance to go check up on Ludmila? A few messages were sent to the Hohenheim region, but they couldn’t send any troops here because a detached force was headed that way. I don’t expect there to be any large-scale fighting given the numbers reported, but I would like someone to confirm. Unfortunately, it would be best to keep the Valkyrie Knights here in case the main force comes back, so you’re the best option.”
I nodded blankly, thinking that some distance away from this scene would help. Reaching into my Item Box, I pulled out the portal gun and my levi-board. There was no hesitation as I sped off, leaving my worries behind and focusing on Ludmila.